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It was a few minutes before the excited fox turned down to Id and asked, “Can we knock it off with normal stuff?” The orange eye blinked twice. “Bother!”
Bookworm sighed. “I was afraid of that. When I shot at it last week, it didn’t seem at all concerned.”
“Silver? Geee… three times again!” Tepic exclaimed.
Book sighed once again in exasperation, “And you said it blinked three times when you asked if you needed to go look for Arnold?”
“Yep.” As Tepic continued to try to figure out what Id wanted to tell him, Bookworm answered a knock at the front door. Dr. Maddox Lionheart stood there, looking distinctly less than calm. “Hello, Miss Book,” she said. “Where is he?”
“Dr. Maddox!” Bookworm gestured her to come in, and hurriedly closed the door after her. “He’s here, in the library.”
“Is my father here as well?” Maddox asked breathlessly, she looked cold.
“Your… father?” Bookworm looked at her, confused.
“Oh, right!” Bookworm remembered now that they had that connection. “No, he’s still at the asylum.”
Dr. Maddox nodded. “That simply means there is another trip I must make.”
“Please, come this way.” Bookworm led her into the library, where Tepic was still questioning Id. He looked up. “Oh… ‘ello, Miss!”
“Hello, Tepic.” Dr. Maddox made her way to the couch and knelt down by it, holding Arnold’s paw in her hand. Bookworm looked at her curiously. “Do you know about Id?” she asked. Maddox nodded quickly and Book continued, “Id can communicate with us, but only yes-or-no questions. One eyeblink for yes, two for no.”
Maddox’s voice grew cold and soft. “Did you get the person who shot him and my father?”
Bookworm nodded soberly. “He’s dead.”
Tepic, having watched this byplay, spoke to Id. “Can Miss Maddox help us?”
The orange eye blinked three times, and Tepic laughed. Maddox asked, “What does that mean?”
“Apparently, it means yes *and* no,” Bookworm replied. “The question is, what part is yes and what part no?”
“I don’t think Id can tell us that,” Dr. Maddox said. “What I want to know is how much of this is her speaking and how much is Arnold.”
“Id, is it just you that’s answering our questions?” Bookworm asked. The orange eye blinked once, very slowly.
“Is he in danger?” Maddox asked. The orange eye blinked once again.
“From just the birdy?” asked Tepic. The eye blinked twice. “So somethin’ else, too? Oh, dear…”
Dr. Maddox looked up at Bookworm, her eyes welling with tears. “Bird? What bird?”
Bookworm bit her lip, hating to tell Maddox what she had learned. But then she started as Id blinked the orange eye twice, very emphatically. Tepic must have seen it, too, as he said, “Yer not ter worry ‘bout that, Miss. We takin’ care of it…”
Dr. Maddox wiped her eyes and repeated, with some steel in her voice, “What. Bird.”
Bookworm looked from Arnold to Maddox, and back to Arnold. The orange eye blinked emphatically twice, again.
“Yer saw the blinks, Miss,” Tepic said. “An’ if this Id knows what’s best, it’s best yer don’t ask.”
“Id knows more than she’s letting on,” said Maddox with annoyance. She leaned in to Arnold’s face, searching his eyes–the intelligent, purposeful orange eye, and the staring, vacant blue eye. “Id, are you hiding something from me on purpose?” Id blinked once.
“Are you aware that I will find out, no matter how I have to do so?” Id just stared up, not blinking. Maddox sighed with frustration. “I do not like that Id’s hiding something. I need to know what’s going on. I will not lose him due to my inaction.”
“An’ if yer does somethin’ yer not supposed ter, an’ it hurts Mr. Arnold?” put in Tepic.
“I won’t do anything I’m not sure of, Tepic. But I won’t lose him. You know how it was the first time; you were there.”
“I were, Miss, an’ it were by bein’ careful we got ‘im back.”
Maddox tried one last shot. “I take it you won’t tell me anything else right now, will you, Id?” At seeing Id’s two blinks, she swore, then looked up at Bookworm. “My flight was delayed, or I would have been here sooner. Is there a way you can tell me if Id releases any more information? I hate being kept in the dark, but I suppose now I have no choice in the matter.”
Bookworm nodded. “Where will you be?”
“I suppose I will have to stay at the asylum with my father. I cannot leave either of them. Not now. Perhaps Tepic could send an urchin with news when there is some?”
“There are a couple of militia volunteers working there right now. And the new maid Lisa could probably run any errands for you,” Bookworm said.
“Of course. I know Lisa–she’s a dear.” Maddox bent down and whispered, “You tell Arnold to be patient. I will save him as soon as I can. I need to go to Thaddeus, but I will return. Keep him safe for me, Id. Can I trust you to do so?” Id’s eye blinked once.
“Good.” Dr. Maddox stood up and looked at Bookworm. “Thank you for being here when I couldn’t.”
Bookworm nodded, and escorted Maddox to the door of the library. But then she whispered, “Wait here,” and turned back, hurrying to see if Id was still there. She was, and Tepic was asking, “This thing ter knock off birdy–can I find it in New Babbage?”
Bookworm leaned down and softly, quickly asked, “Id, with Dr. Maddox staying here in New Babbage, might she not be in danger if she *doesn’t* know about the raven?” Id looked at her and blinked twice, then shifted the gaze of the orange eye to Tepic and blinked once. She sighed and looked at Tepic. “You continue.”
Returning to Dr. Maddox, she smiled wryly. “I tried.”
Dr. Maddox nodded. “Once again, Miss Book, I am truly sorry that I couldn’t make it sooner.”
“It’s all right. I am often at the asylum, so I should see you there.” Bookworm opened the door for her.
“Thank you.” Maddox’s voice softened. “Take care of them for me. I’ll see you all soon.”
Bookworm watched as she began her trek to the asylum, worrying at the stress she’d heard in Maddox’s voice, and had seen in her posture, her clenched fists. ‘I do hope we’ll all have better news soon,’ she thought soberly.
((To be continued…))
Unit #6 looked at the reports “Hmm… it… appears… that… bunnies… are… better… at… hugging… than… squirrels…”.
Avariel looked at the data “Yes, it appears that squirrel clockwork are ineffective… I wonder… the squirrels were an old Babbage design, where as the bunnies were imported from Caledon and have a lot more detailing… let me reference the materials used…”
The unicorn pondered for a moment while accessing the archives “Hmm, this is insane! Whoever designed the bunnies appears to have been trying to incorporate every stable element on the periodic table!”.
Unit #6 nodded “It… was… a… bet…”.
((*laugh* Quite the clockwork menagerie you inherited, Avariel!))